A sharp, rainbow-colored tale that’s sure to entertain and teach young readers.

CHELZY STONE'S MYSTICAL QUEST IN THE LOST AND FOUND GAME

This debut middle-grade fantasy novel finds three children drawn into a magical quest to find other kids who went missing decades ago.

Ten-year-old Chelzy Stone, her parents, and her 12-year-old brother, Matthew, moved to Simonsville, Pennsylvania, a year ago. As summer approaches, she and Matthew are ready to enjoy their vacation from school. Matthew plans to read comics and play video games, and Chelzy hopes to explore the group of trees—or “Magic Woods,” as Grandpa Stone calls them—behind their home on Sycamore Street. One day, she glimpses what looks like a black-cloaked woman in flight near the trees, and it naturally stokes her imagination. She’s also excited to meet her new neighbor, a shy 11-year-old girl named Tory Herold. The new girl introduces the siblings to an old board game called The Lost and Found Game, which her Uncle Tony gave her. Eerily, the game’s cards feature pictures of black dust and a scrap of black cloth, which match real-life objects that Chelzy and Matthew recently found outside. Later, Grandpa Stone tells the kids about three Sycamore Street children who went missing in 1982, supposedly carried off into the woods by black birds. Do Chelzy, Matthew, and Tory dare investigate the Magic Woods themselves? After all, The Lost and Found Game ends with a challenge involving a Dark Queen. Procopio’s debut blends the dazzling splendor of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with structured magic that’s reminiscent of that in the Harry Potter series. It’s the colorful parade of characters that steals the show, however, including the Bright Queen and Melzabod, a blue unicorn who guides the kids through such areas as the Sea of Weeping Willows. Indeed, animal helpers abound, making it tough for “The Trio,” as the third-person narrator calls them, to err too badly. However, the author eventually adds a plot twist that forces Chelzy and company to rely on their own skills. She also adds real-life nature facts, including an explanation of the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees. A warm, thoughtful ending leads toward a sequel.

A sharp, rainbow-colored tale that’s sure to entertain and teach young readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9860607-0-0

Page Count: 262

Publisher: RoseLamp Publications

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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